I am sitting at my favorite diner.
How many posts have I started with those words? Bunches of them, I am sure. It is my “go to” line, like Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night.” When you see a post start with those words, you know I am at a loss about what to write about. Poetry has failed me. I’ve probably written some pretty bad stuff that no one should have to write.
I am in a logjam.
And so I use my own mantra of “start anywhere.” and write down that one line, “I am sitting at my favorite diner.” And almost always, once I break that logjam, even with the one line, stuff comes.
My affinity for coffee shops and diners began a little more than a decade ago. I had just separated and was moving towards a divorce. I had moved out of our huge old farmhouse, my dream house at the time, into a tiny little basement apartment. It was actually a nice little place, but tiny and for me claustrophobic.
So I would go to the local coffee shop, Mill Mountain Coffee in Daleville, Virginia. It had windows and light. I was not alone, but I could work, often for hours at a time, greeting people I knew as they came and went. Mostly though, it was a place of ambient noise, a place to focus and work, and yet still not being alone. Alone was not a good place for me.
As things worked out, I was also beginning a new set of operations for a company I was working for, Diversified Systems. Starting mid-Atlantic offices from scratch. I had to find and build out offices, hire staff, set things up with vendors. I did it all from a coffee shop a mile or two from the office part we were building in.
Fast forward. I moved to Vermont right at ten years ago. I knew exactly one person here. I began having breakfast at the local country store and the two men who owned it made a point of introducing me to people as they came in. I worked, but I also connected to my new home.
When the store burned down, I started coming here, to the Station. It’s been through six owners, but through it all, you have been able to find me here most mornings it is open, at the corner table, tapping on my laptop. People come and go. I work, cup of coffee at my side, often for hours.
It’s comfortable, being a regular at a place. You get to know people. But mostly, people let me be. A familiar distance. A place where I can be as intimate or distant as I need to be. You don’t get that everywhere.
I used to struggle with my introvertedness. I had a hard time resolving it with the fact that somehow I generally ended up as a leader in the company and organizations I was a part of. The two didn’t mix to me. I’m good at leadership. I always have been. But the public, groups part of it suck the life out of me. The quiet time recharges me. The two didn’t seem to mix.
Silly me. Of course, they mix. None of us are one dimensional. My ex-wife used to tell people I would be happiest as a hermit. But I was never that simple. I need the mix. Diners are part of that mix, public and private. Both in one place. Just like me.
What is the perfect diner? Better than average food. Good coffee. Patience with a guy who sits at a table for hours on his computer. Good music helps. Enough locals that I get to talk and catch up on the neighborhood. Enough strangers that you meet new people. Good internet.
I am at home here. After a decade coming here, I am a fixture. The current owners let me name a couple of dishes. They keep a few of my paintings on the wall. I get a few extras when I order. I get to try some of the new dishes before they happen.
It is more than a place to eat, it is a place to be. A mishmash of alone and in the middle of things.
Just like me.
Be well. Travel Wisely.